A lawyer representing victims in the case of former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga says the majority of victims have chosen to receive support for housing or income-generating activities under the reparations regime ordered by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges. Victims can choose between support for housing, education for their children, or for an income-generating activity.
Katanga, 40, was convicted in May 2014 for crimes committed in Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003. The order for reparations was issued in early 2017, and in March this year the appeals chamber upheld it, following appeals by the defense and by victims’ lawyers. In their appeal, defense lawyers asked for Katanga’s financial liability to be reduced, pleading that it was excessive and that he lacked the ability to pay.
The judges ordered reparations to 297 victims of Katanga’s crimes, totaling US$1 million. This would be comprised of an individual symbolic compensation award of US$250 per victim, and four collective awards in the form of housing assistance, education assistance, income-generating activities, and psychological rehabilitation. Since Katanga is indigent, the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) is providing funds for the collective and individual awards.
Katanga, a former leader of an armed militia known as the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri), was convicted for being an accessory to war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from a February 2003 attack on civilians in Bogoro village in Congo. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail.
In a May 18, 2018 update to judges, victims’ lawyer Fidel Nsita Luvengika said half of the beneficiaries have opted to receive a single kind of assistance – either housing, schooling, or income-generation support. He said that whereas 10 percent preferred to combine the three types of support, budget constraints may not enable this.
Income generation support was the most popular, having been chosen by more than half of the beneficiaries, exclusively or in combination with another type of assistance. It was followed by housing support, which could involve construction of a simple housing unit or renovation of an existing home. Housing was chosen by 10percent more beneficiaries than schooling support, which would benefit 253 primary school children.
Luvengika said beneficiaries emphasized the need for rapid implementation of the reparations and to limit the time lag between implementing individual reparations and the start of the collective reparations.
Meanwhile, Principal Counsel of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV), Paolina Massidda last week requested judges to amend the reparations order to include 10 victims represented by her office. These victims were assigned to the OPCV after their legal representative left the case. Massidda said the chamber has discretionary power to amend the reparations order, observing that in the Thomas Lubanga case, Trial Chamber II determined that new applicants could make reparation claims after the order had been issued.
Massidda said the requested amendment would have no impact on the rights of Katanga, as his liability for compensation would remain at the previously determined amount of US$ 1 million. She said the additional amount that would be necessary was minimal and unlikely to have considerable impact on the implementation of reparations. The amount of money required for reparations to these victims was redacted from the filing that was made public.
In his submission, Luvengika suggested that the categories, number of victims by category, and amounts awarded to each category should be considered fixed because they have been presented as such to victims.
Of the 297 beneficiary victims, 265 reside in Congo around the Bogoro, Bunia, and Kasenyi areas, while 17 are refugees in neighboring Uganda and 15 were resettled in Europe or the USA. The TFV is looking into practicalities of implementing for Uganda-based beneficiaries reparations modalities similar to those underway in Congo.
The TFV has proposed providing each of the beneficiaries based in Europe and the USA with a symbolic monetary sum in addition to the US$250 individual compensation award. Monetary compensation is not among the collective reparations modalities, but the TFV says it should exceptionally “be provided to compensate for the fact that these beneficiaries will not have access to any of the collective reparations to which they have an established right.”